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Its official: Westside boys are good

Ninth-ranked Eagles use denied three-pointer from half-court to rally for an 18-point win over Colton
by: Vern Uyetake, Coach Craig Burgess give his team a pep talk during a time-out.

Sometimes it's the points that aren't scored that mean the most.

That was the case Monday night when a desperation three-pointer was waved off at the end of the first half in a 3A boys basketball game between Westside Christian and Colton.

Even though the basket was waved off, which was the result of a controversial decision, it seemed to give the host Eagles the lift they needed to play an inspired second half and that led to an easy 73-55 victory.

Through most of the first half, though, Westside Christian seemed to be going through the motions. That helped the visiting Vikings post a 40-32 lead at the break, thanks partly to some uncanny shooting.

'We came out very flat and Colton is a very disciplined team and their coach does a great job of getting them in spots where they're going to be successful,' Westside Christian coach Craig Burgess said.

The margin at the break should have been half as much, though, after Westside's Wade Moyer buried a three-pointer from half-court just as the buzzer sounded. Moyer was also fouled on the play, which could have led to a rare four-point play.

The only problem was the official closest to the play ruled that Moyer released the ball just after the halftime buzzer had sounded. It appeared that Moyer had clearly beaten the clock and the official's call effectively robbed the Eagles of four crucial points.

It could have been a demoralizing turn of events for Westside. Instead, the Eagles used the ref's snub as motivation to turn the game around in the third quarter.

During his halftime speech, Burgess reminded his players about some of things they had failed to do during the first half.

'We talked about (not making) turnovers. We talked about rebounding. We talked about tempo. And we didn't do any of those things in the first half,' the coach said.

The biggest adjustment, though, was Westside's ability to change from an almost flat-footed defense in the first half to a second-half effort that was filled with intensity. The key was the pressure applied by Westside point guard Zach Renicker, who made it nearly impossible for the Vikings to get the ball to their top shooters.

The one who suffered the most for Colton was the sharp-shooting Evan Stanbro, who scored 21 points in the first half but managed only four more in the second half.

As a team, Colton scored just two points (on a pair of free throws) in the third quarter. By then, Westside had already scored the first 10 points of the period, which tied the score at 42.

The Eagles then finished the stanza with another 10 points and tacked on the two more baskets to start the fourth quarter, and suddenly the game was on the verge of becoming a rout at 57-42.

It was as if two different teams had suited up for Westside that night.

'I think they were upset with themselves (after the first half),' Burgess said of his players. 'I think they know that they're more capable than what they played like in the first half.'

At the center of the turnaround was Moyer, a 6-foot-1 guard with a quick release and an accurate shot. He actually started the game with a hot hand and had 12 points by halftime, including a pair of three-pointers, neither of which were in jeopardy of being waved off.

And the hot hand continued through the second half as he drilled just about every shot he took. During one 50-second stretch in the fourth quarter, Moyer scored eight points with a pair of three-pointers sandwiched around a rebound basket. He finished the game with five 3's.

'You can't really come out on him, either,' Burgess said of Moyer. 'Because he's got a quick first step and he can go right around you.'

When Moyer hit that last three-pointer, which gave Westside a 68-46 lead with 4:12 left, it was pretty clear that the Eagles were going to cruise to an easy victory.

The Eagles (4-3 league, 11-3 overall) also got a big lift from Austin Lapp, who scored seven points during Westside's third-quarter romp. Dima Yovko also helped out in that period with back-to-back baskets. He finished the game with 10 points.

Then there was Renicker, who might have been Westside's best two-way player. In addition to his stellar defense, he tallied 14 points, including four three-pointers.

The Westside boys program has fielded some excellent teams in the past, but some of their critics felt that this season might not match up with some of the previous years. However, the Eagles proved those people wrong by storming into the state's top-10 poll in December and staying there even after three early league losses.

'There's a lot of people around the state that don't believe that we can play basketball,' Burgess lamented. 'But we're just going to take it game by game and try to prove (we can).'

You can bet that the Vikings have become believers. But everyone is still waiting on word from Monday night's officials.